Vacation in Paris Blog

August In Paris

Places To Visit - Posted on Sep 21,2018 by Hampton*Jan

Ah, August in Paris. The lines at the Eiffel Tower are longer than the Tower is tall. From the end of the queue at the Louvre, the Pyramids of Egypt seem closer than the one marking the entry to the great museum. Souvenir shops are jammed.

From our apartment near Trocadero, we almost feel as though the Eiffel Tower is twinkling for us alone.

This is Paris in August: the best of both exciting activity and sweet tranquility - and the opportunity to choose between them whenever one wishes.

Time was when Paris became a desert during the month. Most shops closed completely, others reduced their hours and those remaining open because it was “their turn” did so with a discernible grudge. Parisians vacated the city for the beaches and countryside, leaving behind buildings totally shuttered and stores with soaped up or papered up windows. It was depressing.

One friend of ours recalled that when he arrived in Paris in the 1950's, staying in the city during August was almost considered a sin. “People who were here would close their shutters, so everybody thought they were gone,” he told us. “They were too embarrassed to admit they were home.”

Even when we moved here in 1978, August was a dead month. We couldn’t find an apartment because all the real estate and rental agencies were closed. We walked blocks to find an open boulangerie or bakery; restaurants were closed and even the famous ice cream shop Bertillon on the Ile-Saint-Louis was on vacation. Impossible! An ice cream parlor closed in the summer!

Well, that was then. Now just enough places stay open to make life comfortable for those here. Waiters and salespeople no longer seem to feel they are missing the good times with their friends and, instead, seem happy to work in the less-harried month. “It’s almost a mini-vacation,” one said. They’ve discovered it’s cheaper and more relaxing to take their holidays when the madding crowd is back at work and school.

French workers still have a month or so of vacation time. However, thanks to the global economy which means factories can no longer afford to shut down for a month and families have schedules of more than one bread-winner to adjust, les Français are apportioning their time off. A nice chunk used in the summer when the children are out of school, a bit over the end-of-year holidays, and, of course, a week or so to ski in February.

Even our concierge has joined the new routine. Unlike many of her peers who leave for cottages in the countryside or family homes in Spain and Portugal, she has rejected the month-long break. “If I take it all at once, I don’t have anything to look forward to for another year,” she told us.

There is also a method to her madness: she replaces other concierges on our block who follow the traditional pattern. It means extra money for her and, as she said, “We have two children and we want to educate them well. This way it will be possible.”

It’s a nice thought that all the peacefulness that makes residential Paris so lovely for visitors in August is doing good as well.

Some traditions, however, remain entrenched: Bertillon still closes in August.

Our latest guest bloggers - Don and Petie Kladstrup
Photo by Fan Xu

Don and Petie Kladstrup are authors of two best-selling books, the first being Wine and War: the French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, a best-seller that has been optioned for a motion picture. Their second book dealt with World War I: Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times. Both books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Don and Petie are former journalists. Don was a award-winning foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC Television News. Petie worked for several mid-western newspapers before serving as an assistant to the American ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. They are the parents of two daughters and have lived in Paris since 1978, splitting their time between the city and their country home in the south of France. 

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